'They don't care': Phil Gould's fury over 'arrogant' Queensland move

·4-min read
Rugby league icon Phil Gould is pictured here.
Phil Gould has slammed the Maroons for not naming their Origin side in positions for Game I. Pic: Getty

Rugby league icon Phil Gould has accused Queensland of "arrogance" after slamming a bizarre move from the Maroons in the lead-up to Wednesday night's series opener in Townsville.

The Maroons - battling several fitness issues before Game I - named their team list before the opening match at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Wednesday night.

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However, rather than the traditional way of naming the players in their numbers and positions, the Maroons revealed their Game I squad in alphabetical order.

New South Wales on the other hand named their 19-man squad in positions but the Maroons kept the rugby league world guessing about the exact make-up of their 20-man squad.

Question marks have surrounded Dane Gagai and whether the centre will play in Game I after sitting out of training with a bout of tonsillitis.

However, the veteran Rabbitohs star returned to training with the Maroons on Tuesday in a sign that he'll take his place in Game I.

Likewise Cameron Munster (foot), Harry Grant (hamstring) and AJ Brimson (knee) all completed their final training session in a sign there would be no further tinkering after the withdrawal of Kalyn Ponga (groin) last week.

Ponga's absence has opened the door for North Queensland winger Kyle Feldt to debut at his home stadium, with Valentine Holmes likely to shift to fullback.

In not naming their side in positions, Gould says it shows the Maroons don't care about fans and accused them of doing a disservice to the Origin spectacle.

"We don't know what their team is yet. What's that about? Have you seen a team, one through 17? How do they get away with that? How is the promotion of Origin helped by that?" Gould said on Wide World of Sports' Six Tackles with Gus podcast.

"You name your team, your team is picked in positions, they're the talking points, that's what the fans want to see.

Seen here, Maroons coach Paul Green at Origin training.
The exact make-up of Paul Green's Maroons side for Origin Game I remains a mystery. Pic: Getty

"Queenslanders, they just want to be different, they just want to be different. Origin, they own it, it's all about them, arrogance, whatever you want to call it. They'll keep us waiting; they don't care.

"And you know what you've got to do? Not react to it. Not react to Dane Gagai's tonsillitis, not react to Ben Hunt being rushed into camp, not react to the fact they haven't named their team.

"What you've got to do is dismiss it, shake your heard and say, 'Ah, it's Queensland'. That's what they do."

The Maroons are seeking back-to-back series wins after an against-the-odds victory under Wayne Bennett last year.

This year the Queenslanders are turning to Paul Green to try and mastermind a similar success, with the Cowboys' 2015 premiership-winning coach taking the reins at the Maroons for the first time.

Far less uncertainty surrounds the Blues' squad, with coach Brad Fittler backing his Penrith halves to replicate their irresistible club form on the Origin stage.

Blues coach backs Penrith halves

No players have had more written or said about them in the lead-up to the Townsville clash, with all eyes to again be on them on Wednesday night.

The pair have won an incredible 46 of 48 games in the halves together since entering under-20s in 2015, including 11 straight to start the year at Penrith.

However, the one thing they are yet to do together is a lift a trophy, with last year's grand final defeat to Melbourne the most notable loss.

Cleary is at least one of the most capped players in NSW's team, with his eight Origins making him the fifth most experienced player in the team at the age of 23.

But 24-year-old Luai is a rookie on the big stage, acting as part of NSW's squad last year without playing a game.

Pictured here, NSW halves duo Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai.
Big things are expected of NSW halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai in Game I. Pic: AAP

In comparison, rival halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster have 23 Origins between them and both are premiership winners.

"It definitely is a step up in level. But he (Luai) seems to have the courage when he plays for Penrith to play under pressure," Fittler said.

"It's one thing Nathan and Jarome do very well, when the pressure is on they seem to get better.

"State of Origin is all about that.

"When it's challenging and tough that's when you stand up and show your courage. When it's easy, both teams are good enough to do that."

with AAP

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